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Curated Travel

Culture Watch
Christie's Travel provides its clients access to bespoke experiences around the world.

Last November, a clutch of jewelry aficionados gathered in the New York workshop of Van Cleef & Arpels for a private preview of its newest designs. They also took in a specially arranged tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s blockbuster JAR show nearby and enjoyed a salon-style meeting with designer James de Givenchy that showcased his finest, rarely seen pieces. For a few days, the cabal were treated as gem world rock stars—all thanks to the efforts of Christie’s Travel, the newest subsidiary of the storied British auction house.

Quietly launched late last year, this division was directly inspired by a longstanding but lesser-known art world tradition. Museum donors are often invited to exotic locales on private jaunts hosted by the institution’s director or curator as a gesture of gratitude for their support. Christie’s Travel has co-opted this concept to offer it to any art lover—not just philanthropists or even the auction house’s existing clients.

Led by veteran gallerina Karen Stone Talwar, the subsidiary will run just 20 or fewer trips yearly, with a limit of 15 guests each time. Each jaunt will have a Christie’s expert on hand at all times and center on different art world must-sees, whether a fair, like a trip in March to TEFAF in Maastricht, or a world-renowned opening, such as the debut of The Broad museum in L.A. this fall.

Logistics and back-end support come from tour firm Abercrombie & Kent, while Talwar and her team provide a priceless addition: access. “Anyone can ask a concierge to book you to the front of the line of a museum queue—we can do what they can’t do,” she explains. To wit: anyone can visit Jaipur, but only Talwar’s guests will have tea at the local royal family’s home; Angkor Wat is a travel staple, but her trip to Cambodia and Vietnam will also include a gala dinner inside a 12th-century temple at nearby Angkor Thom.

Christie’s Travel was the brainchild of Eric de Cavaignac, the firm’s global head of corporate development (his dream trip: West Africa to see the nascent contemporary art scene there). As the art world has grown more international, he explains, it has also become more enmeshed with travel, organically generating this brand extension. “For our clients, it’s really about why art is important and how it fits in the world—less about a transactional relationship with a sale happening in 10 minutes,” he says.

He stresses that the trips don’t just pivot on their priceless access but also on the people, whether seasoned auction house staffers or fellow travelers, noting “something inherently social is attached to culture now.” A group of strangers from Latin America visited London for the Frieze Art Fair last fall and bonded so well over shared interests that the entire band reunited for a Christmas dinner at one of their country homes in Brazil. Undoubtedly, they exchanged gifts from Christie’s, too.

 

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